It’s great having choices, but many times it seems like there are too many choices. If you’re a business owner or executive tasked with opening a new office, the decision and choices that need to be made about phones, phone lines and Internet service is a headache. Here are a few ideas to consider before you head down this road:
1st you need to determine how many voice lines you’ll need. Most in our industry use a 2:1 or 3:1 ration of people to lines. In other words if you have 10 employees working in your office, you’ll want 4-5 voice lines. If you have 20 employees you’ll want about 10-12 lines etc…. Some might confuse voice lines with phones. Keep in mind that it’s not a bad idea to have a phone in the waiting area of your office for your patrons to use, or in the lunch room. This being the case, you might actually end up having 12-14 phones if you have 10 employees. It’s doubtful that everyone in your company will be on the phone at the exact same time – unless you’re a telemarketing group or call center business. This is boring stuff to most of us, until you’re the one tasked with having to set this up. Then you need some serious help! No one wants to make a stupid, expensive wrong decision about these things.
On this front you can decide to go with a more traditional set up (the classics) that would include separate voice lines and a DSL for Internet – companies that would offer this would be, Qwest, AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast. The other option is to look at Integrated T-1′s or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) T-1 service. With this service both your voice lines and your Internet access is delivered over a T-1 or business-class facility. These take a while to install (30-60 days) compared to a traditional setup (10-14 days), but tend to have a lot of flexibility. Companies to consider for this service are: XO Communications, Qwest, Integra, and Paetec.
Next, figure out (on average) how many of your employees will spend time on the Internet? What types of sites will they visit, or maybe better, what types of sites do you want them to visit? Many employers have strict firewall policies about this as the sites most of us want to visit are generally very bandwidth intensive – but this is for another blog posting. If you’re a doctors office, or an architecture firm you may be sending very large files via e-mail so you’ll want to take this into consideration. In most cases if you make a wrong decision about your Internet bandwidth, the carrier you’re working with is more than willing to increase the size of this pipe. Generally they are not big fans of reducing your bandwidth without some sort of penalty – so be careful here. For more on Internet, go here.
There are many options for Internet access – above I discuss differences between a traditional vs. an Integrated Access set up. There are arguments for and against each of these, but in general this is my opinion: If your office is small and you’re on a small budget, go with a traiditional setup of voice lines and a DSL. This will be less expensive and you’ll be able to get things in place quicker. If you have 10 or more employees and you’re quite sure things will ramp up over the next year take a serious look at an Integrated T-1. If you need more voice lines in the future it’s easy for the carrier to turn these up quickly. T-1′s tend to be more and better monitored than POTs lines (Plain Old Telephone Service) by the carriers. Often if there’s a problem with your service the carrier knows about it before you do – this is not the case with plain old service.
As for phones, one can go in numerous directions depending upon budget. If you’re working on a shoe string consider getting something from one of the office stores (Office Max – Best Buy), then work with your carrier to make sure the proper features are part of the offering so that these basic phones will work properly. Over the next few years you can consider upgrading to something more robust when the need for additional phones exceeds your existing system. Another option here would be to go to E-Bay and buy a system thats 2-3 years old. The software release would most likely be outdated, but at least you would have a business class solution until you were ready to make a larger/newer investment. If it’s only 2-3 years old you should be able to find a company locally that will help you install & maintain it. If you have the budget for a new system talk to the individuals supporting you with your Internet and phone service – generally they’ll have a couple groups for you to consider. Confirm with the local BBB and always check references before you move forward with a vendor.
ALL IN ONE SOLUTIONS
Telesphere offers a hosted phone solution that we believe is fantastic. They’ll provide you a true one stop solution for your new single location business or all of your offices nationwide. All handsets and features would be the same nationwide and you’ll have one bill for all of your voice, data and equipment. Check them out here.
Ultimately there are many choices, but if one takes the time to research the various options available you should be on track to business success. Get with a carrier agnostic agency for help. These groups have relationships with all of the carriers, they’ll be the best group to assist you or give your company a tune up.